Every year, the NWFA awards one student with the National Wood Flooring Association Education & Research Foundation Wood Studies Scholarship, designed to promote the post-secondary study of forestry and related forestry sciences.
The nonrenewable scholarship for $1,000 is awarded to a current high school senior who will study forestry in an effort to advance and improve forestry practices for generations to come.
In 2016, Rachel Nation, the Valedictorian at Milton High School in Milton, Florida, was awarded the first-ever Wood Studies Scholarship. We recently had the opportunity to follow up with Nation to learn more about her passion for forestry and to see where her studies have taken her during the past few years.
Growing up on a small family farm, Nation spent many hours outdoors with her grandfather, unknowingly paving the way for a future in forestry. “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my early memories of riding around in the woods and seeing all of the nature around me were probably my earliest pushes toward a career in forestry,” says Nation.
Her love of nature escalated after studying natural sciences and competing in Science Olympiad competitions in middle school. Upon reaching high school, Nation began looking for majors and colleges where she could study a field that fit her interests. “Through taking Advanced Placement Environmental Science, I decided I could major in Forestry. When I visited Mississippi State, I fell in love with the campus, the people, and the College of Forest Resources,” adds Nation. “Now that I’m here and well into my studies, it has been nothing but a confirmation that I am in the right place and pursuing the right major. I love that I am always learning something about God’s beautiful creation and how to manage it with good stewardship for future generations.”
The NWFA is proud to play a small part in the good stewardship that Nation practices and preaches. “Receiving the Wood Studies Scholarship has eased some of the cost of college and allows me to focus more on my studies and extracurricular activities,” says Nation. “Because of that, I’ve been able to get very involved on campus through the Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), as well as through many other councils and associations offered at Mississippi State.”
As evidenced by her involvement in numerous extracurricular activities relating to forestry, Nation has a great desire to keep learning and to make a difference. “Learning comes in many forms and is not always found in a classroom,” adds Nation. “I love learning about how the forest environment works and being able to learn through labs, workshops, hands-on experience, and even other people.”
One way that Nation is continuing to learn outside of the classroom is by participating in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, conducting an independent research project under a faculty advisor. Within the context of Upland Oak Forest Systems, Nation is researching how the leaves of different species affect how quickly they decompose and how they affect the success of sprouting acorns and other seeds. On a broader scale, this research will help with understanding the effects of excluding fire from eastern forest ecosystems.
“I look forward to getting more involved with the NWFA in years to come so I can connect with others in this industry and contribute to others’ educational experiences,” says Nation. “Educating the public and the youth of today about stewardship of resources and sustainable wood supply systems is so important for the image and future of our industry.”
If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing post-secondary education in forestry or related forestry sciences, consider applying for the 2019 Wood Studies Scholarship at https://www.nwfa.org/nwfa-wood-studies-scholarship.aspx. The NWFA is accepting applications through Feb. 1, 2019.